A FULL SLATE FOR SAFE BASE – After-school program works to keep offerings fresh, challenging



February 25, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Things seem to be back to normal for SAFE BASE Director Angela Henry after a busy few months, including a summer full of trips to Missouri and Colorado.
Of course, her “normal” is a full slate of courses for local students.
“It’s just about implementing what we said we would do,” Henry said, while sitting at her desk, which was cluttered with schedules and school materials.
The principles behind SAFE BASE have not changed, but the staff is working hard to keep the program fresh and exciting as much for staff as for the children.
“After 14 years, our challenge is what can we do that is new, something fresh?”
This session has several new topics, including chess, ping-pong, robotic Legos, painting, bullying counseling and even a piano course at Allen Community College with Ted Clous, music director.
Course offerings aren’t the only things getting a fresh look. Henry and her teachers are devising new ways to get area children involved in the after-school program, including utilizing test scores and attendance to draw them in.
First off, the parents of some of the lower-scoring students are contacted and updated on ways that SAFE BASE can help to steer them in the right direction. Henry said the teachers and staff can put students in classes that will help them succeed in areas they may be lacking.
The response by parents has varied.
“I’ve had some parents that say ‘no, absolutely not,’” Henry said. “Then there are some who say, ‘OK.’ It’s been a little bit of a challenge.”

AFTER 14 years, Henry and her staff are accustomed to challenge.
Financially, she said the program is stronger than ever thanks to two grants they have received in the past several years. They have two years of grant funding left from a $584,000 grant, and another three years in a $1.1 million grant.
The break in grant writing has given Henry the time she needs to focus on the program. Over the summer, SAFE BASE went on an unprecedented week-long trip through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They also went to Mark Twain’s home on the Mississippi River in Hannibal, Mo., and spent the night in the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita.
Henry said the trips were an overwhelming success, and it gave them a chance to showcase what they do in the program.
“It was a more glamorous approach to what we’re doing every day,” she said.
SAFE BASE has garnered a certain level of familiarity, she said, for better or worse. Most parents don’t know what the school system was like before the program, she said, and they want to keep it that way.
She said making the program free for all children was an important first step, one that should continue as long as they stay on the right course — and if this year is of any indication, they have the pedal to the metal.

WHILE THE summer trips were a success, Henry said they aren’t planning to go quite as extravagant this coming summer.
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen for 2015. They have thrown around some ideas, including the Grand Canyon or a return trip to Colorado — but that’s a long way off. She said there will be some trips for this year’s program, but doesn’t want to be stretched thin with another lengthy planning process.
Not to mention they need permission from the USD 257 School Board before planning another trip. She hopes the success of 2013 was a good omen for the future.
“I think we had their (the school board’s) trust before, or else they wouldn’t have let us do it,” Henry said. “But I think they were pleasantly surprised.”
There are still mounds of camping equipment stored away for another trip, and Henry and her staff have yet to decide what this year will hold for the program. They still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

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